Principal Investigators: 

Dr Zoë Walters


University of Southampton

Award Amount: 
36 months

Dedifferentiated liposarcoma is a particularly aggressive sarcoma subtype, and current treatments can be ineffective, with debilitating side effects. This project is exploring new ways of treating dedifferentiated liposarcoma, by identifying specific genetic changes which can be targeted with drugs.

Liposarcomas, which can affect the fat cells anywhere in the body, are one of the most common types of sarcoma, and make up approximately 18% of all soft tissue sarcomas. Some subtypes of liposarcoma are readily curable, but one subtype, called dedifferentiated liposarcoma, is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. Current treatment options for dedifferentiated liposarcoma include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, but are often ineffective and have debilitating side effects, so there is an urgent need to find new and better treatments.

This project will take genetic information from sarcoma patients’ tumours gathered by the Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnership (GeCIP), also co-funded by Sarcoma UK. Dr Zoë Walters and her team will then use this information alongside other gene expression information they have generated, to determine which specific genes play a role in causing dedifferentiated liposarcoma, and whether the proteins encoded by these genes can respond to drugs that are already available. They then plan to test these drugs in models of dedifferentiated liposarcoma to see if they might be effective in treating these cancers, and, using state-of-the-art single cell sequencing techniques, investigate how these drugs work in these models. Finally, the team will work to identify biomarkers, which act as biological indicators to show if a treatment is working, in the hope that these can be used in future clinical trials.

Ultimately, the team aims to identify a novel, more effective, and less harmful treatment for patients with dedifferentiated liposarcoma, and, using the biomarkers, provide a method for identifying new options for treatments in other subtypes of sarcoma.

What this means for people affected by sarcoma

Understanding the genetic factors which play a role in sarcomas can be key to finding new and better treatments. Identifying specific genetic changes that can be targeted in dedifferentiated liposarcoma will lead to better and less harmful treatments for patients.

Project status: